Epigenetics

Goettel, W, Messing J.  2013.  Paramutagenicity of a p1 epiallele in maize. Theor Appl Genet. 126:159-77. AbstractWebsite
Complex silencing mechanisms in plants and other kingdoms target transposons, repeat sequences, invasive viral nucleic acids and transgenes, but also endogenous genes and genes involved in paramutation. Paramutation occurs in a heterozygote when a transcriptionally active allele heritably adopts the epigenetic state of a transcriptionally and/or post-transcriptionally repressed allele. P1-rr and its silenced epiallele P1-pr, which encode a Myb-like transcription factor mediating pigmentation in floral organs of Zea mays, differ in their cytosine methylation pattern and chromatin structure at a complex enhancer site. Here, we tested whether P1-pr is able to heritably silence its transcriptionally active P1-rr allele in a heterozygote and whether DNA methylation is associated with the establishment and maintenance of P1-rr silencing. We found that P1-pr participates in paramutation as the repressing allele and P1-rr as the sensitive allele. Silencing of P1-rr is highly variable compared to the inducing P1-pr resulting in a wide range of gene expression. Whereas cytosine methylation at P1-rr is negatively correlated with transcription and pigment levels after segregation of P1-pr, methylation lags behind the establishment of the repressed p1 gene expression. We propose a model in which P1-pr paramutation is triggered by changing epigenetic states of transposons immediately adjacent to a P1-rr enhancer sequence. Considering the vast amount of transposable elements in the maize genome close to regulatory elements of genes, numerous loci could undergo paramutation-induced allele silencing, which could also have a significant impact on breeding agronomically important traits.
Goettel, W, Messing J.  2013.  Epiallele biogenesis in maize. Gene. 516:8-23. AbstractWebsite
We have correlated cytosine methylation of two epialleles, P1-rr and P1-pr, with variation in gene expression and therefore phenotype. The p1 gene in maize encodes a transcription factor that controls phlobaphene pigment accumulation in floral tissues. While cytosine methylation was assayed in various regions spanning 17 kb, the only difference in DNA methylation pattern between the expressed P1-rr allele and the silenced P1-pr allele was detected in a region that consists of a complex arrangement of transposons and adjacent repeats. This region, which comprises the distal enhancer element of P1-rr, is hypermethylated in P1-pr compared to P1-rr. Based on other precedents, we hypothesize that DNA methylation spreads from the transposable elements into the flanking P1-rr enhancer, thereby transcriptionally silencing the gene. Interestingly, P1-pr is reactivated in mutants of the dominant epigenetic modifier Ufo1. DNA methylation in the distal enhancer sequence is significantly reduced, which inversely correlates with increased transcript levels and pigmentation in P1-pr Ufo1 plants. If in general DNA methylation spreads from transposons into adjacent sequences containing regulatory elements for neighboring genes, the corresponding genes could be silenced by chance. Given the large amount of transposable elements in the maize genome, epialleles may be far more frequent than previously estimated.
Goettel, W, Messing J.  2012.  Paramutagenicity of a p1 epiallele in maize. Theoretical and Applied Genetics. (Epub Sep 18) AbstractWebsite
Complex silencing mechanisms in plants and other kingdoms target transposons, repeat sequences, invasive viral nucleic acids and transgenes, but also endogenous genes and genes involved in paramutation. Paramutation occurs in a heterozygote when a transcriptionally active allele heritably adopts the epigenetic state of a transcriptionally and/or post-transcriptionally repressed allele. P1-rr and its silenced epiallele P1-pr, which encode a Myb-like transcription factor mediating pigmentation in floral organs of Zea mays, differ in their cytosine methylation pattern and chromatin structure at a complex enhancer site. Here, we tested whether P1-pr is able to heritably silence its transcriptionally active P1-rr allele in a heterozygote and whether DNA methylation is associated with the establishment and maintenance of P1-rr silencing. We found that P1-pr participates in paramutation as the repressing allele and P1-rr as the sensitive allele. Silencing of P1-rr is highly variable compared to the inducing P1-pr resulting in a wide range of gene expression. Whereas cytosine methylation at P1-rr is negatively correlated with transcription and pigment levels after segregation of P1-pr, methylation lags behind the establishment of the repressed p1 gene expression. We propose a model in which P1-pr paramutation is triggered by changing epigenetic states of transposons immediately adjacent to a P1-rr enhancer sequence. Considering the vast amount of transposable elements in the maize genome close to regulatory elements of genes, numerous loci could undergo paramutation-induced allele silencing, which could also have a significant impact on breeding agronomically important traits.
Messing, J, Grossniklaus U.  1999.  Genomic imprinting in plants. Results and problems in cell differentiation. 25:23-40.Website
Lund, G, Prem Das O, Messing J.  1995.  Tissue-specific DNase I-sensitive sites of the maize P gene and their changes upon epimutation. The Plant Journal. 7:797-807.Website
Lund, G, Messing J, Viotti A.  1995.  Endosperm-specific demethylation and activation of specific alleles of alpha-tubulin genes of Zea mays L. Molecular & general genetics : MGG. 246:716-22. AbstractWebsite
We have investigated the methylation status of the alpha-tubulin genes, and the degree of accumulation of their mRNAs in endosperm, embryo and seedling tissues of Zea mays L. We have found that many of the alpha-tubulin genes are differentially demethylated in the endosperm relative to the embryo and seedling. However, only for tub alpha 2 and tub alpha 4 could a correlation between DNA demethylation and increased RNA accumulation be detected. By analyzing the inbred lines W64A and A69Y and their reciprocal crosses, we have also identified in the endosperm two alpha-tubulin genes, tub alpha 3 and tub alpha 4, that are differentially demethylated if transmitted by the maternal germline, but that remain hypermethylated when transmitted by the paternal germline.
Das, OP, Messing J.  1994.  Variegated phenotype and developmental methylation changes of a maize allele originating from epimutation. Genetics. 136:1121-41. AbstractWebsite
Two instances of genetic transmission of spontaneous epimutation of the maize P-rr gene were identified. Transmission gave rise to two similar, moderately stable alleles, designated P-pr-1 and P-pr-2, that exhibited Mendelian behavior. Both isolates of P-pr conditioned a variable and variegated phenotype, unlike the uniform pigmentation conditioned by P-rr. Extensive genomic analysis failed to reveal insertions, deletions or restriction site polymorphisms between the new allele and its progenitor. However, methylation of the P gene was increased in P-pr relative to P-rr, and was greatly reduced (though not lost) in a revertant to uniform pigmentation. Variability in pigmentation conditioned by P-pr correlated with variability in transcript levels of the P gene, and both correlated inversely with variability in its methylation. Part of the variability in methylation could be accounted for by a developmental decrease in methylation in all tissues of plants carrying P-pr. We hypothesize that the variegated phenotype results from a general epigenetic pathway which causes a progressive decrease in methylation and increase in expression potential of the P gene as a function of cell divisions in each meristem of the plant. This renders all tissues chimeric for a functional gene; chimerism is visualized as variegation only in pericarp due to the tissue specificity of P gene expression. Therefore, this allele that originates from epimutation may exemplify an epigenetic mechanism for variegation in maize.
Chaudhuri, S, Messing J.  1994.  Allele-specific parental imprinting of dzr1, a posttranscriptional regulator of zein accumulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 91:4867-71. AbstractWebsite
Parental imprinting describes the phenomenon of unequivalent gene function based on transmission from the female or male parent. We have discovered parental imprinting of an allele of the dzr1 locus that posttranscriptionally regulates the accumulation of 10-kDa zein in the maize endosperm. The imprinted allele of MO17 inbred origin, dzr1 + MO17, conditions low accumulation of the 10-kDa zein and is dominant when transmitted through the female but recessive when transmitted through the male. Analyzing endosperms with equal parental contributions of dzr1 + MO17 ruled out the possibility that the unequivalent phenotype of dzr1 + MO17 was due to parental dosage imbalance in the triploid endosperm. Second-generation studies show that the dominant or recessive phenotype of dzr1 + MO17 is determined at every generation based on immediate parental origin with no grandparental effect.
Messing, J, Fisher H.  1991.  Maternal effect on high methionine levels in hybrid corn. Journal of biotechnology. 21:229-237.Website